How Do I Share What I Believe? Ten Common Christian Expressions Requiring Translation
by J Warner Wallace
Every group has its own distinct language, and Christianity is no different. Back when I was an unbeliever, a Christian friend approached me and said, “Jim, I’ve been convicted lately, and God has put you on my heart. God told me you need to be born again; you need to come to repentance and experience a conversion. It’s time for you to deal with the sin in your life and have a true spiritual rebirth. Why don’t you invite Jesus into your heart and make Him the Lord of your life? If you have faith you can be saved. You can be washed by the Blood of the Lamb, and sanctified so you can enjoy fellowship with your Christian brethren.” OK, he didn’t actually put it quite like that. But he might as well have. I couldn’t understand a thing he said. His “Christianese” was fluent and mine was not. Years later, I found myself using much of the same language with my unbelieving friends, only to find them equally confused and alienated. So, here’s a list of common Christian expressions I’ve decided to translate for all my friends who are still speaking the language of the secular culture:
#1. “God has put you (or something) on my heart. / God told me.”
Really? As an atheist, I was offended by this kind of language. What makes you Christians so sure you know what God is thinking? Are you actually hearing a voice from Heaven? Does it sound like Morgan Freeman? Sounds a bit presumptuous to me.
Try this instead: “Jim, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. You come to mind when I am praying and talking to God.”
#2. “Be ‘born again.’ / Have a spiritual rebirth.”
Is “Born Again” a political party or something you want me to join? Aren’t all Christians “born again?” If so, why are you using the additional adjective? Are “Born Agains” the true, hardcore Christians? Are they political activists like the modern day “Birthers”? Sorry, I’m too busy to become a fanatic or join a movement.
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Try this instead: “Reconsider your beliefs and begin a new life as a Christian.”
#3. “You need to come to repentance. / Experience a conversion.”
My mother used to take me to Catholic Mass occasionally when I was a small boy. I hated it. I never understood what those priests were saying, but I’m sure it had something to do with “penance,” “penitence,” or “repentance.” Didn’t King James die a long time ago? Why are we still trying to talk like him?
Try this instead: “You and I might be ‘good’ at times but we’re not ‘perfect.’ If God is all-powerful, He has the ability to be perfect. The only way imperfect creatures like you and I can be united to a perfect God is to accept the pardon He’s offering for our imperfection.”
#4. “Deal with your sin.”
You go ahead and deal with your sin if you want to. I’m too busy dealing with everyone else’s sin. I’m a police officer, for crying out loud; we’re the “good guys.” We put the “bad guys” in jail, and most of the folks I arrest tell me they’re Christians. Please Mr. “Holier Than Thou,” don’t start talking to me about my “sin.” It’s offensive…
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